My Epic Story of Regret

Oh boy, do I have an epic regret story in response to Fandango’s Provocative Question: “If you could have a second chance at just one event in your life, what would you choose? What would you do differently?”

***

Introduction

It was 9th grade, and I was in chorus just before class started, talking to a friend.  For the purpose of this story, I’ll call said friend “Melody” because we were both in the alto section and I like irony.

Cue tiny violin for the melody-less altos. Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

It was actually kinda odd that Melody and I were friends in the first place. I was this smart, dorky, goody-goody with no perceptible theatrical or musical talent. Melody didn’t excel in academics and she had a bit of a bad reputation, but she definitely had talent and was often cast in shows and sang solos in the concerts.

The one thing we did have common was that we both wanted to be famous for our performing talents. I don’t even remember having a conversation with her about this, it’s like we just perceived it. And it was true- I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to be famous. Keep in mind that this was circa 1999 when you actually needed talent and achievement to be famous vs. 2022 when all you need is Instagram. It sounds completely ridiculous now, but back then, I just wanted to be famous so bad!

I wanted this. Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

Even more odd, despite all evidence to the contrary, Melody seemed to believe in my talent.

The Audition

Melody turned to me.

Melody: Hey, guess what? I heard about an audition for a part in a movie. The movie is based on a book and you’d be perfect as one of the characters!

Me: Really?

Melody: Yes! This role is so perfect for you. Read the book and I will give you the info.

I read the book. And Melody was right – there was a character in the book who was just like me! Book-smart, nerdy, know-it-all. Even the physical description of the character matched pretty well. That wasn’t exactly flattering, as this character was not described as beautiful. But in this case, the description was apt and oddly an advantage.

There were differences – the character in the book was approximately 11 and I was 14 and in high school – but I was short, flat-chested (at the time), and regularly mistaken for being a lot younger. So the age gap seemed surmountable.

What Was Insurmountable…

The insurmountable part was everything else. 

Everyone tells you to dream big; no one really explains how exactly to make those big dreams a reality. Photo by JK Park on Unsplash

The audition turned out to be more of a casting call, the first step of which involved sending a headshot to a casting director overseas.  I didn’t have a headshot.  I had no idea how to get a headshot.  I didn’t even know how to mail something internationally. (Remember, I was a sheltered, naive 14-year-old.)

I couldn’t imagine telling my parents about this opportunity.  They’d say no.  I couldn’t imagine doing this behind their back, because the logistics involved in getting a headshot and mailing it (keep in mind I didn’t have a driver’s license yet) while maintaining a believable cover story seemed impossible.  Not to mention, in the unlikely event that I got the part, I couldn’t imagine how filming (also overseas) was going to work. I had no idea how to take this opportunity that was straight out of my wildest dreams and fit it into my current reality.

So I didn’t. I didn’t follow up.  I didn’t send a photo for this casting call.  I regret this very much.

Because…

Did I mention that this was for the role of Hermione in Harry Potter?

Really. Image by Olga Kukova from Pixabay

Reality Check

Let’s be honest – I would not have gotten the part.  Sure, at the time, I thought my fake British accent was great.  Brits reading this post, stop laughing.  Every American thinks their fake British accent is great.  We’re wrong, but this is what we Americans think.  But J.K. Rowling was pretty adamant that the cast had to be British.  (I didn’t know that at the time.) 

On top of that, the casting directors, who were already concerned about a cast of potentially rapidly aging child actors, were not going to cast a 14-year-old, even if she appeared to be 10.  And that’s assuming that my headshot wouldn’t be rejected on the spot (not that Hermione was described as a beauty in the book, but I have never been photogenic.)  And even if all of the above-mentioned weren’t an issue, keep in mind that I had no discernable acting talent.

I have to admit that I had no realistic chance of becoming an action figure. Photo by Melike Benli from Pexels

Still…

This may or may not be related, but I proceeded to spend the rest of high school sleepwalking in a depressed fog. That’s the best way I can describe it. There was no good reason for this – no traumatic experiences or circumstances, my parents were lovely people, no one did anything terrible to me. I barely remember anything about high school except for depression sleepwalking. But this may be unrelated.

To this day, I hate the Harry Potter movies.  And not for a normal person’s reason, like the antisemitic goblins or J.K. Rowling’s statements about transgender.  I saw some of the movies, but I couldn’t really watch or enjoy them.

To this day, it still kills me to read stories like that J.K. Rowling was initially underwhelmed by Hermione’s casting because Emma Watson was too pretty.  Not that J.K. Rowling would have been happier casting a talentless American teenager instead, but I can assure you that “too pretty” wouldn’t have been an issue if it were me.

When Emma Watson posed topless for Vanity Fair, I reminded myself that I would die of embarrassment if I had a topless photo in Vanity Fair. And also, that I was not hot and no one wanted to see that.

This did not make me feel any better. Photo by Ryan Arya from Pexels

It still kills me to read the bad reviews of Emma Watson’s performance in the live-action Beauty and the Beast – I don’t have that many talents but my Disney Princess singing voice is pretty good (Update: You don’t have to take my word for it; listen here and decide for yourself) and playing a Disney Princess?!?! I mean, that would have been amazing.

Not a self-portrait. Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Fame?

Perhaps it is just as well. The nature of fame changed from “recognition of talent and achievement” to “stalk every aspect of your life and take upskirt photos on your eighteenth birthday” to “post your own nudes on Instagram before someone else threatens you with them“.

I’ve had a good life filled with undeserved good circumstances and blessings. I married someone who is paranoid when it comes to privacy, and yet who is fine with me keeping this overly honest public blog. I don’t have $70 million (!), but I have a career I don’t absolutely hate that sounds cool to other people and that pays the bills and then some. Life could be worse.

I still, embarrassingly, crave some measure of fame and spotlight. That’s part of why I loved karaoke – the thrill of public performance without the usual barrier to entry (for better or worse).

I still, embarrassingly, kind of want this. Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Lesson Learned?

If my life were an inspirational self-help book – which would never happen because I’m nearly forty and have done nothing of value with my life, and I’m too much of a pessimist for a self-help book – this incident would be a turning point. I’d learn my lesson and from this point forward, I’d take those chances on auditions, job applications, everything, so I wouldn’t have the regret of missing out. I wouldn’t have another “I could have been in the Harry Potter movies” moment.

Of course, this did not happen. At this very moment, I’m sitting on an unsubmitted job application, a job for which I’m basically guaranteed an interview for, well, I don’t really know why. The point is that, no, I did not manage to internalize the lesson of taking chances like this. That’s the other thing I’d do differently.

Things I’d do differently? Actually learn something from the past and not repeat the same mistakes all over again. Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

64 comments

  1. You are en entertaining story teller, and weave a wonderful plot. You say you are almost forty and have done nothing of value in your life? That all depends on what you consider valuable, I suppose. I’m sure what you do for your job and your work within your faith are much more valuable than you may think, and probably more valuable and healthy than being famous, especially what being famous has become. You defined modern fame well. I never wanted to be famous. I don’t like being in the spotlight. I like being behind the scenes making things work, but I do like the recognition of the part I play in making things happen. I have done my share of performing in public, and it is magical when everything clicks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the feedback on the story telling! I had tried writing about this experience in a different writing piece, a long time ago, and it wasn’t as successful a piece. This was a much better retelling of the story.

      You make a lot of good points. The truth is that even if I had become a famous movie star, there’s a lot that I would have missed out on. My relationship with my family would be completely different, probably not in a good way. The loss of autonomy would have been difficult. It’s hard to imagine what my relationship with Judaism would be.

      It is magical when a public performance goes well. The best case scenario I guess is getting those opportunities and rightful recognition, but not having the all-encompassing burden of today’s fame and everything that comes with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, at the end of one of his poems, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
    The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ ” Sad especially when the only relief comes from considering that it most likely would not have been anyway. Not a win-win. However, looking at the bright side, you are dead wrong to think your advanced age (ha) precludes future fame. Talking about regretting things that might have been, imagine yourself at age 70 regretting what you didn’t do when you were 40.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I probably should clarify that this isn’t my greatest regret in life (I’m actually not sure what that is or even if I want to bother thinking about it), but it is my greatest story about a regret in life. It’s hard not to look at this similar how one might think “if only I bought Bitcoin when I had the chance to buy it for $1 in 2011” or something. But at the same time, fame, especially fame today, comes with a pretty steep cost. There’s a lot that I would have compromised or missed out on. I regret it, in the way one regrets missing the boat on Bitcoin. But I also have some perspective now (aging has its benefits!) that I didn’t have as a teenager and I’m not devastated.

      Like

  3. I was captivated by your story, and when you revealed the movie I felt the pangs your teenage self must have. The idea you might be able to have that fame if only you’d…
    It’s something I think most can relate to.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Good post! I would hate being famous, but I want to do something amazing, and know that other people know that, even without their saying anything. Basically, I want to be a reclusive genius author like J D Salinger.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds to me like you did just fine without “being famous.” You know the BEST part about being a little famous (not me, just my husband)? You wind up with great stories to tell when you are old, so even when you are 80 (he’s 80, really), people STILL listen. Interesting and slightly famous people have great after dinner chatter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed this! I will say I was relieved it was a “lighter” post because when I saw “greatest regret” I was like Oh great I’m gonna have to dredge something up too now. What I loved is the whole myopia of the fourteen-year-old who tries to figure out how to secretly work out all of the logistics involved in this. I remember those days well. I’m still sorta that way. Anyways, you shouldn’t put yourself down so much. You sound too smart to be bad-looking. I also want to say the writing here is top-notch. Now one thing I hate is when I get a comment that says “Well-written!” because that’s the kiss of death. it means the reader missed the whole damn point. But I will say here is that your structure of this post and how you lead into the Harry Potter bit was really good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Sorry, the title is a little clickbait-y; I needed something that didn’t reference Harry Potter and this was the first thing I thought of. It is very dramatic and, yes, a myopic teenager totally would have written this title, but mid/late 30s-year-old me could have come up with a more balanced, less-clickbait title. Sorry to scare you!

      I really appreciate the writing feedback, especially coming from you. This actually wasn’t the first time I tried to write about this experience. (I tried in another, pre-WordPress piece.) But this was a lot more successful with respect to setting the scene, the structure, the Harry Potter reveal, etc. Revision for the win!

      I don’t think intelligence and being good-looking are correlated, but I appreciate the sentiment. I will tell you though that it was actually quite challenging figuring out how to describe my physical appearance in a way that felt accurate – accurate to my actual physical features and accurate to what 14-year-old me (and later teenage me, and the adult me of 2017 reading about the Vanity Fair cover) thought at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t actually think it was click-baity–most people probably don’t think along the same lines I do when it comes to angst so I’m sure it’s all good! I’m glad your revision made it come out the way you wanted. Sometimes a different approach is all it takes when something doesn’t have liftoff. As for me, describing my fourteen-year-old self is pretty easy because I look the same except that the bad posture I affected as a teenager is now baked in.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! This isn’t the first time that I have tried to write up the arguably a non-story of how I didn’t audition for a movie role that I wouldn’t have gotten. Revision is a beautiful thing, as this attempt was much better than my previous attempt. Thank you for the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ehmagerd. To think that no matter which path you would’ve went down, you’d still be a part of my life! If you’re not the amazing blogger you are now, you’d probably be in my consciousness as a famous starlet in a big movie. Trippy. Thanks for sharing, JYP!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I also could have auditioned and not gotten the part (an extremely likely outcome). I think in many ways, that auditioning and not getting the part would have been better because I wouldn’t have that “what if” unknown. Then again, I recently entered a writing contest, lost, and felt all those rejections feels I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t entered. Both “what ifs” and rejections are an emotional challenge, I suppose.

      Anyway, I am touched. It is so funny to think about what life might have been in a parallel universe!

      Like

  8. JYP, love this blog post. And you can really write. Taking chances has been good for me. Some worked out some didn’t. But, other opportunities popped up. Have you ever thought to write a book, and make your dream come true — the famous actor or singer! I did! My alternate life is in my book, Three Years of Her Life, book launch May 3rd on Amazon. You can conjure up anything in a memoir. Mine is a historical fiction/ nurse/doctor romance (secondary story). Go for it yourself. 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I appreciate the feedback. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to write about this experience (I attempted off-WordPress) but it is definitely more successful than my previous attempt(s) [yay for revision!] I’m actually a blogger/poet trying to transition to writing a totally fictional novel. I’ve written one chapter thus far. I’ll keep an eye out for your book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, JVP. Awesome, you’ve started a book! I started out writing poetry and turned to writing, blog & the first novel. Tell us more about your book. What you are writing about, etc. You definitely have an engaging writing style. A natural talent. 📚🎶 Christine

        Liked by 1 person

        • The novel plays with the idea of what it means to be a good person and what happens when the hero winds up doing something terrible.

          What is your book about? I’d love to hear more about how you made the transition from poetry to writing a novel!

          And thank you. This blog was something I wanted to do for a while and then finally started during the pandemic because I wasn’t interested in making sourdough bread as my pandemic activity (I should mention here that I am largely incompetent in the kitchen)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Your idea for a novel is a good one. It has intrigue. My book —Three Years of Her Life, a debut novel, rides the line between historical fiction and romance. Inspired by a famous musician’s early 1900s hidden life in Germany, his granddaughter stands up for him, in spite of the family’s disbelief. (family of Jew haters. Grandmother idolized Hitler). (Main character, a nurse, falls in love with a Jewish doctor. Lots of tension & conflict 📚🎶 Christine

            It was a natural transition from poetry to fiction writing. I co-authored 2 books (unpublished), and both people died. Then, I started my own book. So, I had a lot of writing experience. And I got a Copyediting certificate to help me be a better writer. I also had the first draft professionally edited. The second draft was professionally edited, proofread and formatted. Also, a cover designer created the cover. Good to go for publishing on Amazon, May 3rd —eBook & paperback version. Just keep writing, a read authors you like. Before you know it, you’ll have a first draft done. Let me know how you are doing. 📚🎶 Christine

            Liked by 1 person

          • It was actually interesting to do the research. Of course, I found a lot of info that I had to read through for just one or two facts. But, in the end, it was time well spent. When you get to do the research, I can help if you need it. Just would need your questions of what you wanted to find out. 📚🎶 Christine

            Liked by 1 person

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